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HARLINGEN — They bounced gleefully into the air from the colorful inflated houses or slid down slides.
Other children participating Friday in the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District’s Special Education Challenge Day built structures from large blue blocks, lost in the innocent thrill of the moment.
“Hold on, hold on,” adaptive PE teacher Mario Castillo said to some small children on bikes they were riding around the large gym of the Main Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harlingen.
“Today it’s a day for our students that are not quite on our Special Olympics team,” Castillo said. “It’s a day for them to move and have fun and be able to experience success with different activities. It’s a Special Olympics Function Activity.”
The students came from about 10 schools at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
Ethan Garcia, 8, seemed to be having a blast.
“Did you have fun today?” asked Sabrina Garcia, a paraprofessional for life skills classes at Dishman Elementary School.
“Yes,” Ethan said.
“What did you like most today?” Garcia asked. “Was it the bouncing houses?”
“Yes, bouncing houses,” Ethan conceded.
Challenge Day is a program through Special Olympics, said Oziel Ochoa, director of special education for the Harlingen school district.
“The program establishes individualized programs for athletes ages 2 and older who, due to their physical and/or developmental abilities are working on foundational motor skills, to prepare them for possible competitions in typical Special Olympics events,” Ochoa said in a statement earlier this week.
At the event Friday, he seemed to be enjoying its success as much as the students.
“This is our annual Challenge Day,” he said. “They enjoy it tremendously.”
It was now time for the final celebrations and the teachers and paraprofessionals lined up facing each other and shaking purple, blue and silver tinsel. Every child would get a medal for participating.